What I learned about creating a brand from Sally Hogshead, an amazing copywriter and brand specialist

One of the pieces of advice that I got when I first joined management consulting was to develop your personal brand. At the time, I wasn’t sure what that meant but we had a number of lunch and learns and information sessions to help us understand what it meant. In short, it’s the idea that you develop a name for yourself specializing in a specific subject matter — it could be that you know IT strategies inside out or it could be that you are the Supply Chain expert — whatever it is, the way that you move up in the company, get onto more projects and billable work and to make a name for yourself was to develop a specific expertise or name for yourself that someone, if they thought about a specific project, would think immediately of a name of someone that could either help them out or would be perfect for that project.

“Oh, I know Bob knows IT Strategy! He would be excellent for this role.”

Therefore, the idea behind building the brand would be to do good work on the projects that you work on and to selectively choose projects that would help build your brand. If you wanted to build an expertise or brand around data management, make sure that you are actively raising your hand for data management projects. If you want to be known as the design guru, do an amazing job designing graphics, icons, presentations or anything else that your company does.

This was simple enough to understand but after reading “Fascinate — How to make your brand impossible to resist by Sally Hogshead”, I realized that there was so much more to understanding your brand and how to take advantage of specific advantages you may have.

In Fascinate, there are seven advantages that Sally describes:

  • Innovation — you are a creative thinker that develops solutions that break or disrupt traditions (think Steve Jobs)
  • Passion — you use energy to build relationships and convince others through your optimism and energy (think Mother Teresa)
  • Power — you are an authority figure — what you say goes (Think a police officer)
  • Prestige — you are results-oriented, elite and you are perceived as high value (Think LV or Grey Goose)
  • Trust — you are dependable and people think of you as loyal (Think of your dog)
  • Mystique — you are calculated in your actions, not revealing anything you do not have to (Think of the draw and attraction of gift mystery boxes)
  • Alert — you are careful, detail-oriented and precise (Think of airline pilots or surgeons)

By understanding the specific advantage you have, you can then start to amplify your strengths. In fact, not only are there seven advantages, there are both primary and secondary advantages which means that you could be any one of the 49 (7 x 7) different brands. If you are interested in understanding your primary and secondary advantage and what that means for your brand, take the quiz on Sally’s site.

After taking the quiz myself, I realized that my primary advantage was “Innovation” and my secondary advantage was “Mystique” (cue mysterious music). While the book covers all of the different 49 different advantages and tactics for each, I wanted to dive deeper into what it means to have an Innovation + Mystique advantage:

Inject wit and dry humor with messages that are: clever, adept and contemporary

The specific tactics include:

Give a peek of new products to your core fans, before you reveal them to the publicHave team members act as “secret shoppers” to get feedback on new productsReward smart questions from your customers by posting the answers directly online

What exactly does this mean to me?

For one thing, it means that when I think outside the box and come up with clever innovative solutions or ideas, I need to bounce them off of different people to get immediate feedback. I think there are times where I decide to move forward with an idea without vetting it first where I could have received valuable feedback and achieve greater buy-in or adoption with a more refined idea.

Another way it applies to me is that maybe I should experiment with when I am a creative thinker and when I should be more of a ‘straight’ shooter. If I am always innovative for everything that I do, it could hurt me the one or few times that I decide to just do things normally. I am always trying to push the boundaries of my work and I try to never create the same deliverable twice (even if it is a straight copy and paste from one to another which it rarely is).

Finally, I could do a much better job of sharing not just my creative solutions, but the ways that I find or come up with these creative solutions. At work, I already share much of my best work to others in the firm so that they can learn from the projects that I have worked on but at the same time, even though they see that work as forward-thinking, I’m already ahead of them thinking of the next greatest thing to showcase. Ideally, everyone would be brought along to where I am and maybe that’s why some transparency around my ideation process could be a good idea.

Take the quiz! Learn more about your advantages and how to apply them! Believe me, it will help accelerate your career.



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Wang Yip

Wang Yip


Author of Essential Habits. I write about personal development, work and managing your career. Connect with me at www.wangyip.ca